Sourdough bread



2-3 large cups strong white bread flour

1 large cup rye flour (aim for about a 2/3 white to 1/3 rye ratio)

1 big tsp salt (don’t stint!) and (optional) 2 tsp groundnut or rapeseed oil

Warm water

If you don't have a starter you will need to make this. Once made you just use what you need to make the next loaf and then add some more flour and water (say, two tablespoons of flour and some water to mix in) and keep in the fridge. This will need feeding if you are not going to use it to make more bread for a week or more.

The starter

Make the sourdough by adding a couple of teaspoons of flour and enough water to make a thick paste in a jam jar. Screw the lid on but not too tightly so the gas can escape.

Repeat each day and keep at room temperature.

After a few days, five at the most, it will start to bubble and smell slightly off - that’s the natural yeasts in the air doing their bit. You are now ready to make bread!

The dough

Tip about a heaped cupful of white bread flour and most of the starter into a large bowl (add a couple of teaspoons of flour and some water into the starter jar to keep it going for next time - you can keep it in the fridge from now on but allow it to get to room temp when you need it next). This is enough to make one large loaf but I approximately double up the quantities and make two loaves at a time which after practice is the easiest way to do it...

Add enough lukewarm water and stir with a fork to make a wet mix like a runny custard. Cover with a plate and leave for an hour or two until bubbles appear on the surface. Stir from time to time.

After about an hour or two the mix will have a gloss to it and will be producing the odd bubble of gas. Now add the rest of the white bread flour and about the same of rye flour. The rye will give it extra tanginess. Add a good teaspoon of salt and the oil.

Using a fork, mix in enough lukewarm water to make a very thick dough that leaves the sides of the bowl. It will be quite sticky! Cover again.

Over the next hour or so use the fork to pull the edges over a few times into the middle and see how the mixture gets a bit more springy. Do this about 5 or 6 times if you can remember, but don’t fuss if you forget to more than a couple of times in the next couple of hours. The bread should start to rise after two hours or so (depending on how warm the kitchen is). It will still be quite sticky! You can leave this part of the process some time - say three or four hours.

When it has increased in volume about half as much as the original size you can do the second proving stage. Sprinkle some flour over the dough and shape into a ball with floured hands so the outside is easier to work with. If you are making two loaves at this stage, simply split the dough in half.

Method A

If it’s a firm mix, place on a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray while the oven warms up, then bake as below. If it’s too wet the mixture will spread a bit so the trick is to have it firm enough to rise up rather than sideways. Don’t panic if it looks like it will spread, simply follow Method B below.

Method B

If it’s a more floppy mix, use a loaf tin lined with baking parchment and tip the dough into the tin and leave for another hour or so for it to increase in size again.

Baking your loaf

Snip a few times all over the loaf crust with scissors tips or make a few slashes with a sharp knife, add a large glass of water to a baking tray at the bottom of the oven to generate some steam and then bake in a hot oven (220C for the first 20 mins then reduce to 200C for the rest of the baking time) for about 35-40 minutes. It’s ready when it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. It should develop a dark, nutty crust.

The crust will be very crunchy when recently baked but softens after a few hours. Wrapped in foil it will keep for a couple of days but also freezes well.


Recipe Category: Bread.

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